This post by Brandi McCallum, I found to be courageous. The mother of a bully sharing her story. What she did to change the tide is inspiring. My hope is that you all see how admirable her actions were. Realize that not all bullies come from bad parents. That you are inspired to talk with your kids about both sides of this issue. And that you realize like everything else in the world of parenting, there is no place for judgement. Only a place to support one another.
My son has always been a little bit more, a little bit more talkative, a little bit more active and a little bit more aggressive. From that first “no” to the first step he toddled in his quest for independence! A sweet, brilliant baby often grows into a sweet, brilliant boy. And he did. Until he wasn’t.
Until, the one day, when the teacher pulled me into the classroom. She had that serious, somber look, that look that I have come to dread. And then, the worse thing ever, the principal joined us. There was an “incident” today. There was a fight. Your son started it. I felt for sure they were mistaken, was he taunted, teased, what was the provocation? Your son provoked the other child. The other child was hurt. This was not the first time. Then the word I never thought I would hear, the word that only happens in after school specials, the word that caused my heart to plummet and ache. Your son is a bully.
It went beyond the need to be first in line, first at the drinking fountain, it was the need to dominate and control everything. It was at the point that verbal threats were made and physical force was being used. All the kids were afraid of him.
I scoured the Internet for information, I swallowed my pride, faced the judgement and I asked people. I knew they would be judging me, my parenting skills and this wasn’t about me it was about shifting my son, helping him no matter what I had to go through to get him there. I didn’t understand and I don’t think he did either.
We talked, he and I, about the whys and why nots, we read books and we spent hours upon hours showing him. Most programs and books were for the child that was being the bully, not the bully himself. I had to make a lot of stuff up, I felt all alone so often in this particular journey. I floundered and was afraid, afraid to fail my child.
I found that the best thing I could do was show him, show him how it feels to help people, how it feels to be that person that picks someone else up. We frequented parks, where I shadowed him, showed him to help another child on the playground, let someone else go first.
When he was with me, I took that extra time to help someone. I bit my tongue when the words wanted to come out to call someone a hurtful name. The bullying did not stop over night, nor was it easy. We worked with his school, to bring in a program. A national program that spent a week emphasizing bullying.
He was allowed to do the classroom presentation, announce the contest and the winners. We worked together to talk to his peers and he heard first hand how his actions made others feel. Sometimes it was with words and sometimes it was with pictures or actions.
In a different classroom with a different teacher, I was pulled in for a chat. The same words were uttered. There was an incident, there was a fight, a child was hurt. My breath caught in my throat, tears welled in my eyes and then the magic happened. My son was defending another child that was being bullied, he jumped into a fight where another student was being taunted, being called horrible names. He is still aggressive and he still occasionally is a bully but more often then not, he is just my sweet, brilliant boy.
For Brandi’s follow up to this post, please visit her site.